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Posted at 10:58 AM ET, 03/ 8/2006

Remake This

By Liz Kelly

"Hairspray" is:

a. A 1988 movie starring a cross-dressing Divine and future talk show host Ricki Lake.
b. A Tony Award-winning Broadway musical based on the 1988 movie.
c. An upcoming feature film starring John Travolta and Queen Latifah based on the hit Broadway musical.
d. All of the above.

As mentioned in yesterday's morning mix, Hollywood is doing it again. That's right, if all goes according to New Line Cinema's diabolical plan John Travolta will be dancing and singing (in drag) across movie screens in summer 2007 as Edna Turnblad, a role originated by John Waters muse Divine. Don't get me wrong. I'm a fan of drag. I'm a fan of "Hairspray." I thought it was fabulous when the indie sleeper was reborn as a mainstream Broadway hit. What I'm not so happy about is that it's finding its way to the silver screen again. After all, the 1988 original is a classic.

John Travolta in decidedly masculine attire (AP), Divine in the original "Hairspray." (Post)

And "Hairspray" is not alone. Although remakes are somewhat regular fare for Hollywood, the past few years seem to have been particularly rife with regurgitated hits: "Manchurian Candidate," "The Amityville Horror," "Cheaper By the Dozen," "The Longest Yard," "Freaky Friday," "Herbie: Fully Loaded," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "The Pink Panther" -- just to name a few.

This weekend the 1976 flick "The Shaggy D.A." will no doubt delight a new generation of kids and make Disney millions more as "The Shaggy Dog." (Note to Disney die-hards: While it shares the same name as the 1959 Fred MacMurray classic, it's plot is more akin to the later Dean Jones version). This time around, the film stars Tim Allen and Kristin Davis, both of whom should be ashamed. And for the rest of the year it will be almost impossible to walk into a multiplex without an eerie feeling of deja vu courtesy of more retreads: "The Hills Have Eyes," "Poseidon," "The Omen," "Miami Vice," "Charlotte's Web."

Had enough? If not, both Sequelogue and The Movie Insider keep a running list of remakes in development (not sure how reliable either list is).

Sometimes the remakes are watchable -- equal to or even better than the original. Peter Jackson didn't waste either his time or the studio's money remaking "King Kong," but in most cases there's a noticeable degradation in quality from original to remake. And is anyone else itching to see the ridiculously talented Jackson tackle something completely new? Something where most of us don't already know the ending? (Luckily he's doing just that with "Halo" and "The Lovely Bones.")

And aren't there enough new scripts floating around Hollywood? Don't force Richard Linklater ("Slacker," "Dazed and Confused") to go to seed helming duds like last year's "Bad News Bears" remake. Let him create new classics from new scripts. I'll gladly line up at the box office to be surprised.

"Hairspray" is a classic and should be considered untouchable. Unless, of course, John Waters is down with the Travolta treatment, in which case I'm happy and look forward to the new, improved version of "Pink Flamingos" starring Jessica Simpson and Will Smith.

By Liz Kelly  | March 8, 2006; 10:58 AM ET
Categories:  Miscellaneous  
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enough with that sobbing. Hollywood has always retreaded. The Front Page, to pick a random example. stage to screen, to screen as His Gal Friday, and once more to screen. I could provide numerous other examples. the point is are they any good and are they box office successful. the rest is hot air

Posted by: johannesrolf | March 8, 2006 2:43 PM | Report abuse

How could leave out The Producers, the nearest analogue to Hairspray? I am from Baltimore. And if anyone had told me 20 years ago that a hit musical would be set there, I would have been incredulous. If they had told me it would be based on a John Waters film, I would have known they were barking mad.

Posted by: Jack Purdy | March 8, 2006 2:50 PM | Report abuse

A movie of The Lovely Bones! Now there's something to look forward to. A wonderful book w/ many interesting challenges in filming. Will be interesting to see what they do with it. Everyone who hasn't already bought a copy should. Although selling the movie rights doubtless made Alice Sebold all the money she ever needs, she should be rewarded directly in book sales for this fine book.

Posted by: THS | March 8, 2006 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Occasionally I break into a cold sweat with visions of a Hollywood remake of THE REAL CANCUN dancing in my head. Because, well, you just *know* they'll ruin the original. Don't! Mess! With! The! Classics!

On the other hand, would love to see an update of BASKET CASE, starring Will Ferrell. Ok, maybe BASKET CASE 2, instead.

Posted by: Thor | March 8, 2006 3:50 PM | Report abuse

JOHN TRAVOLTA as Edna Turnblad?? Ecch, worst casting since Tom Hanks as Sherman McCoy in Bonfire of the Vanities.

Posted by: dcMary | March 8, 2006 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Well, you miss the entire point about Hollywood and the movie industry: it ain't about creativity and art, it's all about money. If some producer thinks s/he can lure enough suckers into the theater via remake, why not? Why risk actually trying something new when it may flop? One of the downsides of large costs, including outrageous salaries for acting "talent", is that producers are less willing to take risks and bring new movies to the screen. The third edition of Jurassic Park, or a remake of Hairspray, may not be great art, but the producers can make their money.

Posted by: Stafford | March 8, 2006 4:38 PM | Report abuse

I think it's Turnblad.

Posted by: Anon. | March 8, 2006 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Re The Producers: The movie version of the musical was far, far inferior to both the musical and the original 1968 movie. Let's hope the same fate doesn't befall Hairspray (it probably will -- no one is as good as Harvey Fierstein for Edna, except the late Divine).

How about a musical and/or remake of Polyester?

Posted by: Steve | March 8, 2006 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Well, at least Mr. Travolta won't have to wear very much padding under his dress to play Edna. There is so much more of that boy now than there was in his "Saturday Night Fever" days...(meow)

Posted by: Scott | March 8, 2006 9:52 PM | Report abuse

i think that this remake is going to be fantastic! i don't think people realize that this isn't just going to rikki lake all over again, this is going to be a musical, unlike the original film. and John Travolta will be fantastic as Edna! yet so many pessimists doubt. i'm really looking forward to this film! but i might just have a bias because of my love of musicals in general. i think it might be even better than the first one!

Posted by: kt | April 23, 2006 4:11 PM | Report abuse

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